Ground them for a week. They survive.

Put onions and celery in the tuna casserole. They live through it.But ban them from watching TV and they freak out.

Kids in modern America can deal with a huge array of inconveniences, but remove the boob tube - take away that audio/visual IV they hook themselves to each day - and you've got civil war on your hands.


But use subtle persuasion - fan $500 in cold, hard cash under their noses - and you just might get some peace and quiet at your house.

Just ask Boyd and Cherrie Nelson. The parents of two TV addicts - Denise, now 11, and Natalie, now 12 - made the girls an offer they couldn't refuse.

Last winter, the two girls saw an article in the Deseret News about a boy who - with a $100 incentive from his parents - had not watched TV for an entire year. They decided to try it.

"It lasted for two days," remembers Natalie. "We didn't think it was worth it for $100."

So their dad upped the ante to $500 apiece.

"Dave did it while I was at work one day," said Cherrie. "But of course, he never thought they could actually do it. They watched TV from the minute they got up in the morning till they left for school, and then it was on again as soon as they got home until they went to bed. I never thought they'd actually do it."

But they did. The two celebrated a year of TV freedom on Friday.

Natalie gave up her favorite show, "Growing Pains," and Denise sacrificed "Who's The Boss," along with Saturday morning cartoons and unlimited video viewing. During their TV-free year they were allowed videos only on weekends, with the family, and on sick days home from school. There was some amnesty last fall during the Olympics.

But it was a rough beginning. "The first night was like torture - just one night," remembers Natalie. "We couldn't even watch when we went baby-sitting. So we'd read books or do our homework. It took about two months before it didn't really bother us anymore."

Since beginning their self-imposed restriction, the girls have taken up books by the box. Natalie estimates she's read at least 90 books - many of them 300 pages long - during the past year. Denise says maybe half that many. Their favorites have now become collections they plan to pass on to their children, including the series "Anne of Green Gables," "Nancy Drew" and "Baby Sitter Books."

Other reading material has included magazines and the Deseret News. "Before we started this, it was like, `What's a newspaper?' " Natalie said. Now the front page and the comic sections are her favorites. "I could tell you what's going on in the world now," she said.

The two also developed their interest in sports and keep their dad busy coaching county league basketball and softball. Other hobbies include arts and crafts, calligraphy and drawing.

Now, with the restriction off, both say they'll gladly watch TV again. Denise is ready to gorge herself on it; Natalie wants to start with smaller bites. But Cherrie has different ideas.

"I don't think we'll watch as much," she said. "It's just so much nicer to see them reading books."